Bomblets: Corrections And Additions To A Previous Post By Thoughtful And Thorough Reader, JDB

Hat tip along with my thanks to loyal reader JDB, a fellow military history enthusiast, who kindly pointed out the errors in my post of Tuesday 17 May 2011. He also provided additional information on the subject discussed.

Charles McCain wrote in the post: “The flak system operated by those 900,000 people was comprised of 14,250 heavy guns, primarily the famous German “88”, which fired a shell measuring 8.8 cm in circumference at its base…”

JDB corrected the information as follows:

No, the caliber of all guns is the diameter of their bores. The bore of the 88 was 8.8 cm in diameter, just like the bore of the .50 caliber machine gun is half an inch across.

Charles McCain wrote: “When USAAF B-17s went operational over German Occupied Europe each waist gunner had 200 rounds of .50 caliber ammunition for his machine gun. This was quickly raised to 600 rounds per waist gunner. Who thought of the original load of 200 .50 caliber bullets? Did they have a reason?”

JDB explains:

Yes, weight. 200 was thought to be adequate, and when ammo allowances were increased, hundreds of pounds per plane were added. This meant that MG ammo was displacing either fuel or bombs on each plane.

M2 ammunition is packaged in a metal box containing 100 linked rounds. Each box of 100 rounds weighs approximately 35 pounds (16 kg). says this website:

[Charles McCain adds: JDB’s “M2” is a reference to the Browning M2 .50 caliber machine gun which was fitted to most American aircraft in World War Two including the B-17. Updated variations of the Browning .50 caliber machine gun continue to be standard issue to US armed forces.]

Charles McCain wrote in the post: “It’s worth noting that the ammunition load on Allied and German single engine fighters in World War Two worked out to an average of six seconds of firing. That was all. If you pushed your firing button and held it down for six seconds you expended all of your ammunition.”

JDB adds:

This is true, but any pilot who held the button very long risked burning out his guns. Firing for six seconds straight would ruin the barrel of almost any machine gun, on the ground or in the air. Pilots and gunners were trained to fire in short bursts of less than a second.

I welcome additions and corrections to posts. If your thoughts are going to be more than a few lines please send them to my email,, instead of writing them in the comment box. That way I can respond to you and we can discuss the issue.

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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